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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 23:45 GMT
Bosnia displays ancient Jewish book
Sarajevo Haggadah
The Sarajevo Haggadah is the oldest known surviving version

One of Europe's most important Jewish relics has gone on public display in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

The 14th Century book, known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, depicts scenes from the Hebrew Bible and has intrigued scholars for generations.

Sarajevo Haggadah
The Haggadah is on show in the national museum
Not only does it break tradition by depicting the human form, but it also portrays the world as round, an heretical concept during the middle ages.

But, the newly restored Haggadah is also seen as an enduring symbol of hope and reconciliation between the peoples of the Balkans.

A choir from a local school marked the ceremony, the first time the Sarajevo Haggadah has ever been put on permanent public display.

Survival story

Originating in Barcelona, the 109-page book is made of calf skin and illustrated with gold and copper pictures.

Sarajevo under attack
The book survived centuries of war

It arrived in Sarajevo via Italy and Croatia.

During World War II, the Nazis tried to find it but it was spirited away.

Some say it was hidden under the floorboards of a mosque.

During the Bosnian war in the 1990s, it was rescued from the National Library in Sarajevo just days before it was bombed.

The head of the Jewish community in Sarajevo, Jakob Finci, says it is a symbol of hope.

"In the same room we will have not only Haggadah, but also some other objects belonging to other respected religions in our country and this is proof that in this country that not only we can live together, but we used to live together for centuries and let's hope this will continue in the centuries in front of us," he said.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Europe
20 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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